Barack Obama wants it both ways. Like every United States president since Bill Clinton, who partially brokered the now-defunct Oslo Accords in 1993, he aspires to act as a trusted intermediary in the 63-year old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, while simultaneously pandering to America’s massive pro-Israel lobby. These clashing goals have spurred him to propose an array of conflicting claims and positions that, aside from being fundamentally incompatible, are often simply painful to observe.
Over the course of four short days in mid-May, he managed, in three separate addresses – at the US State Department, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House briefing room, and at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful flagship of the Israel lobby – to offer blatant discrepancies, of policy or omission, on nearly every aspect of the conflict. This jarring discord did nothing to bolster Washington’s role in the situation and, to careful listeners, reinforced its ultimate irrelevance to any genuine resolution of it.